Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bellini in a Jar

The Bellini, a magical concoction of juiced white peaches and Prosecco, is rumored to have been created at Harry's Bar in Venice.  Harry's bar was a haunt for literary figures and for the glitterati of society, during the early 20th century.  Those who passed through the doors included Orson Welles, Noel Coward, Truman Capote, Somerset Maugham, Barbara Hutton, Peggy Guggenheim and a host of others.
The drink is made by juicing white peaches, and putting the pits of the peaches into the juice, turning the juice pink.

 The juice is poured into glasses, with Prosecco, a delicious sparkling wine from the northern regions of Italy.  The good news is, that you don't need to pay a fortune to buy a good bottle of Prosecco.
Here in San Diego at Specialty Produce, the stone fruit has been amazing.  When I stopped by on Saturday, I picked up way more peaches than we could possibly eat, and so I decided to replicate my favorite beverage in a jam using these succulent peaches.

Using a combination of yellow, and white peaches, I had about 10 cups of peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped peaches, and put them into a heavy bottomed saucepan, with 3 cups of sugar, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of Prosecco--this gives you the rest of the bottle to enjoy while you are making the jam.  Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil for 10 to 15 minutes.  I'm not a fan of pectin, but if you choose to have jam that is really thick, add the pectin according to the package of directions.  

This is a great Prosecco that you can find at Costco
The peaches will cook down. I like to take an immersion blender, or potato masher and mash the fruit when it's cooked down.  This is totally optional, the fruit will soften to the point where it falls apart when cooking.
This yielded two 4-ounce jars, and two 8-ounce jars.  You can process these in a water bath for 10 minutes, if you would like, or the jam will keep in the refrigerator for about 6 weeks.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Something from Nothing

There are some nights when I have no imagination or creativity left to make dinner.  Those are the nights I look in the fridge and pantry to find "nothing".  Fortunately, there is always bacon, cheese, and eggs, along with the odd 1/2 pound of pasta in the pantry.  Last night was one of those nights, after spending most of the day writing, I had zero left in my brain to think about dinner. 
So, Carbonara it is! Basically eggs, bacon, cheese, lots of ground black pepper and pasta, you will find this dish on menus throughout Italy.  There is a lot of bad carbonara out there, and the secrets to a good carbonara, are room temperature ingredients, and pasta water.

I didn't have any guanciale or pancetta, so bacon would have to do.  This was about 5 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces.  Fry it till it's crispy, and take out all the bacon fat from the pan.
3 egg yolks, about 1/3 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano and lots of ground pepper---whisk it up and keep the whisk in there, since you'll be adding some pasta water to this, to temper the eggs, and make sure they don't turn into scrambled eggs.  There is a quandary as to whether to use Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano---Parmgiano was the first thing I saw in the fridge, hence it's in the Carbonara!
While the bacon is frying, heat the pasta water.  For Dr. C. and I used 1/2 pound of linguine.  While the pasta water is boiling (about 3 minutes short of al dente) Take about 1/2 cup of the salted pasta water and add it to the eggs and Parmigiano, whisking until the eggs and smooth.  Turn on the heat under the bacon at this point, to about medium. 
Drain the pasta, and turn into the skillet with the bacon, add the egg mixture and turn the pasta incorporating egg mixture.  Turn off the heat under the skillet, and continue to turn the egg mixture until it clings to the pasta and has created a creamy sauce.  If you find it dry, add a bit of reserved pasta water, or some good quality olive oil, and continue to turn the pasta until it is to your desired consistency. 
Serve the pasta garnished with additional cheese.  

Carbonara means "charcoal burner"; the tradition is that this pasta was a hearty dish served to men who worked the coal mines--hence the copious amounts of ground black pepper that look like coal dust. Other theories are that after World War II, many Romans were making this dish with bacon and eggs supplied by the allied troops who occupied Rome after the German surrender. All I know is that carbonara can make something out of nothing. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


I love pickles!  I guess the first step is admitting it.  Unfortunately, store bought pickles can sometimes taste old, and not so great.  At this time of the year when pickling cucumbers are coming in to Farmers' Markets and to Specialty Produce here in San Diego, I get in a little over my head and buy them because there are so many ways to pickle a cucumber.  I'm not talking about canning jars, and buckets of boiling water to process them in, I'm talking about refrigerator pickles that can be eaten over a week, right out of the fridge.  Today when I was at Specialty Produce, I picked up some pickling cucumbers, and decided it was time to get some into the fridge for the fourth of July weekend. 
Scrub the outside of cucumbers with a vegetable brush, and then slice thinly. 
I like onions in my pickles, so I sliced a red onion the same thickness.  Sprinkle salt over the cucumbers and onions in a colander set into a bowl.  The salt will draw out any excess moisture in the cucumbers and onion, so as not to water down the pickling marinade.  Let the cucumber mixture stand for 1 hour.  Then drain off any excess moisture. 

I didn't prepare a typical pickling brine for these.  I have a recipe I use to make pickled onions for burgers, and decided that I'd use that instead.  It's simple and makes these great for tossing into salads,  onto burgers, or your favorite sausages or hot dogs. 

Pickled Cucumbers and Onions

Makes about 4 cups
This recipe is easily doubled, or halved depending on your needs.
4 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
sea salt
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
pinch red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano

  1. Toss the vegetables with the salt in a colander, and drain for 1 hour. 
  2.  In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, oil, pepper and oregano, and pour over the vegetables.  Cover and refrigerate overnight. 
  3.  The pickles will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Drain off the pickling juices after 3 days. 
Wishing everyone a happy Fourth of July weekend!